How to Use Bartering to Come Back from Nothing
A tool from 6000BC that will help you get out of a rough spot.
To begin with, we are all going to have to fall from grace at some point. Whether it’s a life event or a career event, it’s going to happen. My humbling experience was trying to pivot my career in a different direction from nothing. Some days it felt like I was winning and other days I felt like a big loser that couldn’t do anything right.
During one such desperate moment, I was chatting to a recruiter that had the power to help me, but to date, had done nothing. Getting his attention was tough because candidates looking for jobs in tech were everywhere and my resume seemed to make me look very similar to everyone else in the crowd that wanted to work for a tech company who’d had an IPO — or was about to have an IPO.
For weeks I tried everything I could to get him to help me and open up his address book full of the best contacts that not even money could buy. A warm introduction from him was similar to being given a letter of recommendation from the Prime Minister of Australia saying “Yeah Tim is a good bloke and I’d recommend you hire him, mate.”
No matter what I tried, I got nowhere.
He had something valuable, but he was not going to open his treasure chest for this young Indiana Jones.
The phone call
There was one thing that changed this recruiters mind. He went from singing a sad song in D Minor to that sweet C Major chord progression of some of the most uplifting songs ever written.
All I said was this:
“Yep, I’ll see you next week at your office. I’m coming in to help one of your staff with their social media strategy and then I’ll say hello to you after that.”
“Really, I didn’t know that.”
What I’d done without realizing it was offer a barter: my knowledge of social media and blogging, for his yet to be opened address book.
He was surprised that I was helping a staff member of his company with their social media (for free) given that my career search was such a big priority. To date, he’d done nothing to help me but hearing this one sentence from me, made him change his mind.
While we didn’t explicitly call it the ancient art of bartering, that’s exactly what we had done.
“Seeing as you are helping us with our social media, let me see if I can help you with some of those contacts you’ve been asking for.”
Before this trade of knowledge between us was spoken of, there was nothing I could do to get this recruiters attention. All the follow-up, coffees, intro’s and conversations all led nowhere.
The moment I had something to barter (which was of value to him), was the moment the predictable results changed.
What does the term bartering mean?
The internets description: Bartering is the act of trading one good or service for another, without the exchange of money
My description: Bartering is an act that comes from a giving mindset where you exchange something of value (not transact), without expecting anything in return, and getting something in return that money can’t buy. The value given from each side doesn’t have to be equal.
Steps to follow when bartering
1. It has to be something the other side values
People try and barter all the time and they offer up dumb stuff that the person they are trying to influence doesn’t value. For example, people offer me Search Engine Optimisation on my personal website, which isn’t valuable to me because I don’t run a blog and mostly use Medium.
Just because you think something is valuable, it does not mean the person you are bartering with will see the same value.
- Be smart
- Ask questions
- Look for problems you can solve
2. Offer what you have first
The whole reason I got access to this magical address book was because I never intended on bartering anything and offered what I had first.
Bartering — when that is what you intend to do, and communicate as such — ruins its superpowers. Being too upfront about your intention to barter comes across as a hustle and transactional.
Give first without hinting there is a barter at play.
3. Don’t ask for anything in return
The moment you expect something from what you’ve offered is the moment you once again wipe the shine off a good barter. Offering, and then asking for something is a classic case of completing a transaction. A barter has a different intent to a transaction.
4. Deliver more than expected
Whatever you have offered will go down much better if you do more than the other person expected. In my case, I had multiple sessions with the person who I was helping with their social media strategy and gave them everything from my five years worth of experience. There was nothing left on the table.
Overdelivering has a better chance of leading to a bartering situation than underdelivering or promising something you don’t actually deliver.
5. Don’t worry if what you are giving costs more
A barter does not have to be of equal value. The moment you try and look for a balanced barter with someone is the moment you turn the situation back into a transaction again.
The catalyst for my whole ‘coming back from nothing’ situation was this barter I described above with the recruiter. It was an accidental situation that got me results that didn’t look possible.
It was a last-ditch effort after months of being frustrated that changed my results entirely. I ended up coming back from my career issues, in part, to the address book of people this barter gave me access to. Without the names, numbers and introductions, who knows what would have happened.
If I was to describe the mindset of bartering, I’d say it’s about giving. Simple as that.
What screws up how we see the world is this belief that we always have to get something out of every situation.
When you’re coming back from nothing, trying to get something all the time becomes obvious and stops the very people that could help you turn a blind eye to your situation and silent cries for help.
Change your intention, drop the entitlement, do some bartering and watch this 6000BC tradition open up doors you could never have opened any other way.